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The internationally renowned Brit girl group's deep remix catalog is chronicled in a new 3-CD set of dance/club hits and rarities.

Music Review: Bananarama – ‘Megarama’ [3-CD Set Reissue]

As the most successful British girl group of all time, Bananarama spent over a decade riding high on the pop charts in England and throughout Europe. Concurrently, they met with a succession of hit streaks in America, Asia, and other locales around the world. While “Cruel Summer,” “I Heard a Rumour,” and the trio’s wickedly kinetic remake of Shocking Blue’s “Venus” thrust them under a global spotlight, further irresistible, hook-laden gems such as “I Want You Back,” “Love in the First Degree,” and “Shy Boy” (as well as a few more irresistible covers—“Long Train Running,” “Na Na Hey Hey,” and “Help!”) solidified their presence as stylish and consistent purveyors of grabbing, uptempo Top 40 tunes that blended a distinctly stylish vocal sound with just the right amount of rhythmic edge.

Edsel Records' 3-disc 'Megarama' set compiles 36  dance remixes of Bananarama's biggest hits.
Edsel Records’ 3-disc ‘Megarama’ set compiles 36 dance remixes of Bananarama’s biggest hits

Distinguished U.K. label Edsel Records reissued Bananarama’s six albums from this time period in 2013—adding a healthy supply of alternate mixes and edits as tasty bonus material. Lest anyone think the vault had run dry, they’ve now unleashed a three-disc anthology of the most sought-after and well-loved remixes of the hits which, remarkably, don’t repeat any of the additional versions included on the aforementioned reissues.

Boasting such legendary clubland names as Shep Pettibone, Freddie Bastone, Ian Levine, Dimitri from Paris, and Pete Hammond, Megarama travels the gamut of 1980s and 1990s dance music. Each disc contains a well-balanced selection of both commercially savvy and underground-driven approaches to the group’s tunes—the resulting marriages proving the equal importance of artists and remixers when it comes to creating bona fide dance floor fillers.

One of the most engaging aspects of Megarama is the juxtaposition of sparse, cutting-edge treatments such as the Corporation of Bananarama Mix of 1987’s “I Heard a Rumour” by Bastone against more straightforward, melodic ventures like Shep’s Club Mix of 1991’s “Preacher Man.” In each scenario, the rhythmic components retain their stamina throughout the cuts’ duration, each offering a different viewpoint of the gals’ seamless unison vocals and punctuated phrasing.

Even if you’re not strutting your stuff in the club while hearing these tracks, the creative juices of both the producers and programmers shine through in such a way that encourages spontaneous foot-stomping and body-shaking. This is just as true for the more basic, less polished moldings such as the notably R&B-influenced, previously unreleased Original 12” Mix of 1986’s “More Than Physical,” as well as midtempo outings like Phil Harding’s festive, never-before-heard Tuesday Mix of “Trick of the Night.”

True, Megarama may not be the kind of collection that one listens to in entirety in one sitting. After all, the bulk of the vigorously rhythmical constructions here were designed with the nightlife in mind. But therein lies the beauty of the scope of sonic designs present. Whether fleshing out full-throttle Miami freestyle (the nine-minute-plus Hot Power Mix of “Love, Truth & Honesty”) or indulging hi-NRG sensibilities to their brimful capacity (Levine’s Hellfire Mix of “Venus”), there’s an unmistakable artistic beauty to the collage of structural patterns and breakdowns running through every piece of the assemblage.

Lastly, for diehard ‘Nana fans and collectors, idiosyncrasies like the Original Stock-Aitken-Waterman 12” Mix of “Venus” and Jamie Bromfield’s Wacky Vocal Dub of “I Heard a Rumour” (both making their debut here) add distinctive color and vibrancy to an already eclectic assortment of groovy ear candy.

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About Justin Kantor

Justin Kantor is a music journalist with a passion for in-depth artist interviews and reviews. Most of his interviews for Blogcritics can be heard on his Blog Talk Radio program, “Rhythmic Talk.”
Justin’s work has been published in Wax Poetics, The All-Music Guide, and SoulMusic.com. A graduate of Berklee College of Music’s Music Business and Management program, he honed his writing chops as a teenager—publishing “The Hip Key” magazine from 1992-1996. The publication, which was created out of his childhood home in Virginia Beach, reached a circulation of 10,000 by the time he was 16. At Berklee, Justin continued to perfect his craft with a series of ‘Underrated Soul’ features for The Groove from 1997-2003. This led to a companion TV show on Manhattan Neighborhood Network in 2002, as well as writing for the national Dance Music Authority (DMA).
A self-described “obscure pop, dance, and R&B junkie,” Justin also has penned liner notes for reissue labels such as Edsel Records and FunkyTownGrooves. He’s excited to be a part of the BlogCritics team and indulge his musical fancies even further. Connect with him at his Facebook page, or via krystolfan@gmail.com.

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